Episode Thirty-Five: Stalemate: Scene 15

She wove a pattern of light. From the strain on her face I knew she wasn’t the best at this. Better than me, but we could very much have used a witch right now.

 

I was pretty sure it wasn’t convincing at all, but then it didn’t need to be. It needed to be a flicker.
And the stars responded. For a moment I thought we had screwed up and were going to end up with one of us dead.

 

Then I realized that they were laughing at us. Laughing. Appreciating.

 

There was probably a baby trickster up there. “This might actually work.”

 

She lowered her hands. “Let’s give him time to come up here. Let him think we got it wrong and are going to try again.”

 

“If he does.”

 

“He will. He won’t let anyone else do this. Because it will cost him his kingship as surely as anything else.”

 

“I thought he could not stop being king while he lives.”

 

Thruor gave me an almost nasty smile. “If somebody else saves Muspelheim, breaks the cycle, and ends the war, how long do you think he’ll live?”

 

“Two minutes,” I predicted. She was right. His own bodyguard would take him out. He had probably lied to them. He had probably told them winning the war was the only way, the only option they had.

 

“Exactly.”

 

Which did leave a possibility I hadn’t thought of until then – that he would not come himself, but would send somebody else.

 

Then we’d have to kill them. And I’d probably feel bad about it.

 

Regret.
The rift was pulsing, as if fighting against something. When it opened all the way? It was, in a very real sense, my brother.

 

It was the jaws of Fenris, opening to swallow the sun, and when that happened? When that happened it was over.

 

I sat down. I stared up at the sky, wishing there was more I could do than wait to see who came.

 

Please let him come. He had to come. But he would not come alone. “We still should set up an ambush. He may know who we are…”

 

“He still won’t know where, and he won’t come alone,” Thruor predicted. “A small force, mind. The mountain idea was a good one.”

 

I thought about the trail and nodded. “He can’t bring half an army up that trail.”

 

But I had come here for another reason. I looked at the sky again.

 

At the stars.

 

The cycle. How many had already died?

 

What happened to the dead if even the afterlife did not survive? Back to those stars, perhaps.

 

There was something beyond even them, something that was so alien I did not recognize it, but for a moment, I sensed it.

 

Behind the rift, behind the stars, behind my own eyes.

 

Maybe it was the multiverse’s consciousness of itself.

 

And I abruptly thought of something else. I stood up and walked to the tree.

 

It was dead. But I was sure it was, as I had expected, an ash.

 

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